Sunday, December 27, 2009


The Summer of '69 story will continue next time. Christmas Break!

This is my favorite wrapping paper. I thought we used it up last year but we didn't. I was glad to see we still have some. Look. Click to enlarge. If you stare at it you'll see a three-D image.

OK, you won't. I lied. It's just printed horribly out of register. I can't even figure out how it is supposed to look. Maybe someday somebody will make paper like this deliberately.

Here are some photos I took around our house on Christmas Eve. It snowed last Saturday and Sunday, and it was below freezing almost the whole time since, so most of the snow was still here. Then the day after Christmas we got torrential rains that wiped out almost all the snow.

This evergreen bush contains a story. You can see the past in the dry autumn leaves and the twigs that fell unwanted from the paper birch tree overhead (trunk at upper right). You can see the blobs of snow of the present. But in a few months its branches will sprout new light green needles in the spring sunshine. For now, it waits.

We lost most of an aged rhododendron during a wind storm a couple of weeks ago. We knew the bush had a partly hollow trunk, and we knew it was only a question of time. The wind snapped it. One portion of the bush remains and we hope it will grow strong next season. It looks healthy. I cut up the broken parts with a wonderful tree saw I have, a crescent-shaped hand tool, and I piled the cut branches near the street. Here are they are, still green, in the snow.

Our garden is a collaboration between us and nature. If something we like starts to grow, we let it be. There are a lot of ferns on this slope that flourished this past year. We have a lot of asters too, and I cut the dead stems back in the fall, but my memory was that the ferns disintegrate on their own, so I left them as they were. They're still here. You can see the knobby spore cases on the sticks.

I left some asters uncut by this fence. You can see some green still on them. Asters die back but leave a living tuber just under the surface from which next year's plant will grow, so we cut them instead of pulling them up.

Let's go inside. Christmas tree! I took some non-flash photos with a tripod and long exposures, and this one came out all right. The origami peace dove is new this year (thank you David and Sarah). The artificial tree is the one I bought the first year Helen and I lived together, at the Woolworth's I described in Communists. We've put up real trees some years, but this one makes an appearance from time to time.

Helen got this angel, below, at a garage sale earlier this year. In real life, the electric candle she holds shoots out narrow rays of light in a fascinating way. I was hoping to show you this. Somehow the rays do not come out in a photograph.

I don't believe in angels. But I do believe in truth and beauty, and kindness and understanding. That is the spirit of the dark days of winter, the spirit of defying the cold and gathering together and believing that we can make our world better. I think we can do that. This angel holds the light of that hope and is ready to fly on its wings, to soar beyond the limitations we think we have.

In your light we will see the light.

Next time: Truth and Soul.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cake and the Moon

[The Summer of '69 stories start here.]

My "weekend" from the Schoolmaster Books job was Monday and Tuesday. This suited me fine. I liked to go in to the city, and all the bus and subway lines had better service on weekdays. I'd go in one of those days at the end of the morning rush hour, and I'd try to get back before the evening rush.

And if you know me, you can guess one thing I did. I wanted to see what all of the subway lines in the city were like.

I never wanted to do that thing where you ride continuously over every part of the entire system on one fare. It takes 24 hours or so.

I wanted to get to all of the lines, but just eventually. No rush. I would pick a little area of the system to do on each trip. I had to start each time at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station way up at 181st St, and almost always the A train from there, because it got downtown fast, got that out of the way, and I could get onto the lines I wanted.

Thanks to my Huge Hall days I knew a few ways to the Bronx by bus, if I wanted to start on a Bronx subway and run down the East Side for example. I was very cheap though. I didn't like having to pay for a bus and a subway. It was 15 cents a ride, after all. That was real money. I didn't even want to leave the subway to eat. There used to be hot dog places in certain stations. There was one at Fulton Street that I liked. I don't remember what was so good about it.

I did leave the subway once each trip so I could check for new records. I remember going to Sam Goody's in the Chrysler Building (or was it just next to the Chrysler Building?) for new LP releases and a full top 100 of singles. And I had a little route I'd worked out in the Village that took me into a series of shops that had used records, imports, and (dare I say) bootlegs. That's where I picked up my English Beatles LPs, and some Kinks stuff you couldn't get in the States. I continued that through college. I think LPs cost about three dollars then.

And I liked to take the Village Voice each week. It was a real counterculture paper then, tougher than it was later, lots of radical opinions in ink that came off in your hands.

One of my favorites in it was Jill Johnston's "Dance Journal". I guess she was originally supposed to be reviewing dance performances, but almost all the time what she really did was just ramble on and on about politics and feminism and friends and anything else that was on her mind, with page jumps leading farther and farther back in the thick paper until I couldn't read any more.

I don't think I knew what Dada was yet, but I liked it. Imagine, just writing whatever damn thing comes into your head and churning out long rambling articles every week that almost defy anyone to read all the way through to the end. Was Jill Johnston the first blogger?

I always felt like I was smuggling in the Voice at Huge Hall, or home for that matter. I happened to mention something in it to Terri pretty soon after I started working, and she wanted to see it, so I started bringing it in to Schoolmaster Books each Wednesday for her to have.

That summer something crazy happened. Some people took a rocket to the moon, and got out and walked around there in space suits, and then came back.

I wrote earlier about how the past seems a little unreal to me. But things I remember myself are real. It's that older stuff that bothers me. Are you having trouble with this moon thing? The last-ever moon landing was in December 1972. If you are not at least 38 years old, there has not been a moon landing in your entire lifetime.

My friend Michael has observed that of all the visions of the future in the old science fiction magazines, the thing no one ever predicted was that people would go to the moon a few times and then stop going. Forty years later, we should be going to amusement parks on Mars by now, right?

But we didn't know that would happen the first time they went. The newspapers pulled out the Second Coming fonts they had last used on VJ Day. I think the Daily News filled the front page with just the words MEN ON / MOON. The Times retained its dignity but still had a slightly larger head than they had used before. Maybe you had to be there to realize how spot-on The Onion is with the feel of that day (NSFW).

They were nice enough to land in the afternoon, New York time, and on a Monday, so I could be home to watch it on TV. I didn't have a chance to share with Terri how mind-blowing it was for almost two days.

You know me. I met Terri at the door when we opened up on Wednesday. "So, they walked on the moon," I observed casually. I was going to gauge her degree of excitement first.

"Yeah, they did." Oh we were so cool. And then she perked up. "Ooh, the Voice. Gimme." Yup, that was about it. If you wanted to impress us you needed to do better.

Bringing Terri the Voice might have been what got me a nice present. What else could it have been?

I think it happened the next week. Terri arrived carrying a plate covered with aluminum foil. She gestured at me to come into the office, and pulled off the foil.

"Look, I made you a cake."

Well. I never had a friend bake a cake for me before. It was a nice little layer cake with vanilla icing and some sprinkles on top. It took me a moment to say something brilliant along the lines of "Wow, this is great." My head was going to explode.

"You better let me have some." Thank you, Terri. Down to earth.

So I did. Around lunchtime we went out on the porch in the front of the shop, and I cut the cake in half and half again, and Terri and I each ate a quarter cake. It was good. And later in the afternoon we polished off the rest of it.

We had offered some to Sue when she got in but she smiled and said "not for me". Terri and I were pretty thin, so we didn't care how much cake we ate. Now that I've passed Sue's age then, I can see why she'd skip it. Come to think of it, that's not true. I would accept a small piece. You only live once.

My mom wasn't impressed with the moon landing. I can't remember when someone first proposed that the moon walk had been staged in a government movie studio. My ever-hazy memory is that she said so as soon as it happened. But maybe it wasn't till later.

Whenever the subject was mentioned, she'd say the landing was faked. The trouble is that my mom had a great sense of humor. She might have been playing the same joke every time a different person mentioned it, to see what they would say.

Anyway, we all got over it. Moon landing, shmoon landing, big deal.

It could be that by the time Terri made me the cake, she was already thinking of asking me something else. Remember, I was pretty clueless.  So how would I know that soon we were going to do something that, as far as I was concerned, was even more crazy than going to the moon. But that's enough for this week.

The Moon Landing photo was shot on location (I think) by Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin.

[ The next Summer of '69 story is Truth and Soul. ]

Next time: Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In the Year 2525

[The Summer of '69 stories start here.]

In the year 2525
if man is still alive,
if woman can survive,
they may find.

"This song is so stupid."

I would put an exclamation point there, but Terri said it with a sigh, not excitement, so I don't think it deserves an exclamation point.

We both groaned whenever it came on. Anguished soft cries of "They may find what ??".

We were allowed to have a radio on in the shop. Not too loud. Terri liked 77 WABC. Remember Top 40 AM radio? These people do.

I'll get right back to that. But first let's clear up what's going on.

I was not Terri's replacement. Like antique stores, Schoolmaster Books had more traffic in the summer, and Sue the owner was out more often to buy. So she needed two helpers. When she was out, Terri was able to run the shop with me assisting.

People coming in were only part of it. There was a catalog that Sue typed up and duplicated and sent out a few times a year. Because of this we had to visit the post office almost every day, and track everything we sold in the shop or by mail that was in the catalog. You might be interested to know how we did all this without computers. I started to write it out but it's crazy long. I'm just going to say that it involved a lot of paper and handwriting.

The first day I worked, a beautiful Saturday in late June, Terri took me for a walk to the post office. It was great. Don't ask me why. It just was. I felt good.

The post office was only a few blocks from the shop. On the way we made pointless complaints about the size and weight of two book packages we were taking to send out. When we got there Terri showed me how to pay the postage and get receipts, and where our box was and how to open it with the key. We made more pointless remarks about how old the set of post office box windows seemed to be. Maybe fifty years then, I think now.

It was fun going to work. Learning how they did things gave me enough excuses to talk to Terri without my brain going numb, and I got used to it. I had a nice new life going on. Change was good.

And we could spend some time in the big front room commenting on songs on the radio.

From the last week of June, I was working full time, Wednesday to Sunday. The WABC Top 20 included some songs I liked listening to.

Three Dog Night, "One"
Blood, Sweat and Tears, "Spinning Wheel"
Elvis Presley, "In the Ghetto"
The Beatles, "Get Back"
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"
Desmond Dekker and the Aces, "Israelites"
Checkmates Ltd, "Black Pearl"

I know it's just a list, and if you weren't there a list of artists and titles doesn't do much for you. But they're all on Youtube. Go ahead. You won't be sorry.

And the one that bar bands perform the most today is "Bad Moon Rising", isn't it? Ah, Creedence. "There's a bathroom on the right."

But you know what got the most airplay that summer.

If you're lucky, it's been years since you've heard the Zager and Evans opus "In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)". Sweet puppies of Babylon, that is the full title.

If you're young, you're even more lucky : maybe you've escaped hearing it entirely.

Here, don't miss the fun. Turn up the volume.


The Wikipedia page for the song is a thing to behold. It's got scholarly comment like this:

... the pattern as well as the music changes, going up a half step in the key of the song, after two stanzas, first from A Flat Minor, to A Minor, and, then, finally, to B Flat Minor, and verses for the years 7510, 8510 and 9595 follow. The song has no chorus.

Well, duh. The truckdriver's gear shift. You know. You've heard a big truck shift gears as it goes up the hill, vrooooooom, vraaaaaaam.

They go up a half step because things are getting so boring that we'll lose our minds if they don't do something! I'm not talking about changing key to enter a new part of the song : I'm talking about changing key and then just repeating the same melody in the new key.

If there was an Official Scorer for pop music, this would get an error. You might not lose the game, but you're going to have to do something good to make up for it. I heard Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" playing the other day as I was thinking about this, and he shifts real good going into the third verse, but I think he redeems himself.

One might argue whether it's chorus or verse that's missing in "2525", but whatever you call it, the brief four-line melody repeats a mind-numbing eight times as they go from 2525 to 9595. Not only is the music the same, but the lyrics also follow a lockstep pattern. Shift, please. In fact, let's shift twice, we need it!

The song annoyed me in so many ways, I am not sure where to start.

Terri and I got some laughs out of it. We'd cry "oh no" when it came on, and try to find something new to complain about each time. It was like what they later did for movies in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Let's start with this. It bothered me just simply that they jumped ahead by thousands. It was so far. I didn't see how we could imagine one thousand years into the future and say anything sensible. A hundred years is hard.

Looking back now, see what trouble you get into with that:

In the year 6565
ain't gonna need no husband, won't need no wife.
You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too,
from the bottom of a long glass tube, whoa-oh.

6565? We can pretty much do that in 2009, for pity's sake! By the way that "whoa-oh" is where he shifts the truck into second gear.

The other predictions made no sense at all. Try this one:

In the year 4545
ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes.
You won't find a thing to chew.
Nobody's gonna look at you.

What? Mind you, I don't want to give up eating and seeing, but am I supposed to get worried about this?

I can't even imagine everyone having a test tube baby, because the traditional method of conception is fun if it works for you. But even less can I imagine people deciding they're tired of eating, or tired of seeing. Why would that ever happen?

Oh, I feel like an idiot for even telling you why that verse is stupid.

But that's nothing. We're not done here.

Suddenly after 6565 we get Christian eschatology! Yes! After all, what's a more logical progression than this: we think about artificial sexual reproduction, and then we think about judgement day. There are people who always think of those together.

In the year 7510
If God's a-comin' He oughta make it by then.
Maybe He'll look around Himself and say,
Guess it's time for the judgment day.

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head.
He'll either say I'm pleased where man has been
or tear it down and start again, whoa-oh.

What's this 7510? Why not 7575? Oh, I'm sure it's because "seventy" has an extra syllable and Zager and Evans didn't want to stumble through saying it twice in one line. In other words mechanical considerations trump meaning. There was no other reason to shorten the gap to 945 years, was there?

God must be an Ent. He looks around, and then a thousand years later, he shakes his head. Let's not be hasty.

"Whoa-oh", slam it into third, we're rollin' now.

Shouldn't it be "Exordium et Terminus" if we're going to get all Latin about it? Terri liked that one. She'd had Latin too.

I think it was Terri who jumped first on the problem with the pretentious summing-up section, namely the starting line:

Now it's been ten thousand years.

Ten thousand years since what? Does he think the human race started in the year zero?

Oh, wait just a minute. Is he saying that the decline of humanity started with the birth of Jesus? We laughed evil laughs at that one. It's Satanic! And you don't even have to play it backwards! Why did no one else see it?

To be comprehensive we tried to think what happened In the Year 1515 and In the Year 505 that got the pattern started. We couldn't come up with anything. We had the 1911 Encyclopædia Brittanica handy (and I mean the real one on paper, not Project Gutenberg!), and the two of us betrayed what school rats we were by looking through it intensely to find something significantly decadent that happened in those years. As if.

I think we were looking up the history of different countries that we thought existed at those dates. We read aloud little-known facts that had nothing to do with anything. It was nice being silly together. We got a little off topic, but who cared. OK, back to that stanza:

Man has cried a billion tears
for what he never knew.
Now man's reign is through.

To be consistent with verse 1, "man" refers only to male humans. So implicitly "woman" will finally be in charge after the year 9595. Probably a network of witch covens. Hee hee. That might be all right, if we can get back to eating and looking at each other. Maybe not till the year 105105, which is a 95,510 year gap, but who's counting?

We're getting to the real meaning now. This song with its hypnotic repetition is intended to addle our brains and speed the apocalypse, turning the centuries into days, even hours. Yes. Let us greet the end of days. O Zager. O Evans.


Their followup single on RCA-Victor, "Mr. Turnkey" (a song about a rapist who nails his own wrist to the wall as punishment for his crime), failed to chart.

Go figure.

His wrist, huh?

Robin Gibb once said something significant about all this, and considering I co-wrote a biography of him and his brothers, I should be able to quote it, but I can't find it. Anyway the gist of it was that hearing a pop record can bring back vivid memories of a time in your life when you first heard it. He's right.

Look what "In the Year 2525" does to me. I'm back there, with a little radio on, "days I'll remember all my life" as Ray Davies said a year earlier. I hate the song, but I liked the times. The world was simple and the future bright.

The image of Zager (left) and Evans is from the video.  Detail of Das Jüngste Gericht by Hans Memling, painted 1467-1471.

[The next Summer of '69 story is Cake and the Moon.]

Next time: Cake and the Moon.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


[The Summer of '69 stories start here.]

"How much are they paying you?"

My dad always comes up with the practical question. Right. How much are they paying me, for this summer job I have lined up at Schoolmaster Books? How would I know?

He always has the good question and I always don't have the good answer.

I worked more or less for free at the school bookstore. They were knocking some undisclosed amount off my tuition for it. That is, it was undisclosed to me by my dad, who was paying. So I earned something, but I wasn't paid as in getting a check or cash.

You want to know how much Schoolhouse Books paid me? Whatever the New York state minimum wage was at that time, that's how much. I don't know what that was, now.

I went back to the shop two weeks after I was hired. Sue was at the counter, so we discussed the first weekend I would be there, in June. She said she and Terri would show me how to do things. I casually mentioned the topic of how many hours it would be, and said that would be times, oh, I forget, what was the pay again? That was subtle, right?

Sue said Terri would show me how to do things! And where was she? No, I didn't ask Sue that. It was in my mind as soon as I came in, and stayed there, but I was going to see if it happened to come into the conversation. It didn't.

I found her upstairs. Terri was emptying a box of new old books onto various shelves. Her jeans had some of that orange dust on them that you get from contact with old leather bindings.

"Hey, so you're going to work here." See that? I knew she was going to mention it.

"Yeah I guess so." Something like that, as if I didn't want to commit to it.

"That's great, I'm glad." This was welcoming. It was more than that in fact. I responded to this nice greeting with a dumb remark. This still sticks in my mind.

"Why?" What, I asked her why? Oh come on... "why". Why was she glad? What kind of question is that? Maybe it was just polite conversation, Joe. Maybe she was looking forward to having another person around. Whatever. Did it really call for an explanation?

Terri just looked at me for a second. But I was about to save. My mind raced. What I was going to do was provide her an answer, and all she'd have to do was agree. Like maybe "because you know I like books too, right?". That's still pretty lame. Luckily she got there first, and dismissed the weirdness with a word: "Funny."

"I'm Terri. I'm really Therése but only my parents call me that." She pronounced it te-RAZE. She held out her hand. The hand was a little dusty from the books but that wasn't what bothered me. I was being invited to TOUCH HER.

Let's pause a moment. This is very dramatic stuff. We could develop a miniseries for a network with a story like this. If it gets any more intense, for cable. We've got a high school boy and girl, together in an upstairs room, nobody's watching, and they are talking to each other. Yes. It's not a hell of a conversation yet, but they are about to make contact. OK?

I did it. I shook her hand. It was small, and warm. Huh. "I'm Joe. I'm really Joseph but my parents don't call me that." I was riffing off her line, for lack of any other brain activity. Wait, I have a followup. "My teachers used to call me Joseph."

"Oh, yeah, mine do too. Well, they call me Therése, not Joseph." Weak laughter from both us.

She had more. "Wait, teachers used to call you Joseph? What do they call you now?" I explained the peculiar "Mister" usage that was standard at the Prep. That in turn led us to what schools we went to.

Terri was a senior at Rosary. Another Catholic school, a few miles up the road. An all girls school.

We almost had something in common. I was getting fascinated by this. Now I wanted to talk to her more.

But she choked it off. "I want to get these shelved so I can get down to the counter. Sue needs to do some catalog. Ummm, OK?"

And the way she asked that sounded familiar. I said sure.

I went to the next room, and I recall looking at the shelves for a few minutes, and not seeing the books, lost in thought.

This story is about change. When I was a kid I had trouble believing that things in the world changed.

As I moved around in the world almost all I saw was buildings and roads and trees that had been there my whole life. The world seemed like a static place. Now that I am older, the world seems almost totally dynamic. Things, and people, follow an arc of existence. They start at a point in time, move forward and change as they go, and then they make an exit.

In my child world view, I was skeptical about the passage of time. I mentioned in Huge Hall that I couldn't accept the date cast into the radiators.

When I was a kid, there was a place I passed sometimes when I rode my bike, where over the course of a couple of weeks, they tore down a very old house, a house that I now think was probably a farmhouse about a hundred fifty years old. I knew somehow that it was a farmhouse, but that idea was so unreal I could not fully accept it, because there was no farm there, only suburban houses and roads. We had done school reports for the Tercentennial of New Jersey in 1964, and I knew that much of our town had been farmland, but I didn't feel it. It was long ago. It was like fiction. It was not connected to real life.

Maybe that's what was wrong with the radiator. It was intruding into real life.

Since then I've liked playing with the idea that the historical world and real world are the same.

I think that's why I like examining old structures, and especially the remains of old structures and roads. Seeing these things convinces me of the reality of what I would read about in histories. I try to see them as they once were and connect their present state with what they were in the past. I'm one of those people who will say, look, this is the actual place where it happened (whatever it was), and it means something to me.

For quite a while I was totally in favor of historic preservation of practically anything. I liked seeing the old things and I wanted them all to remain for other people to see. But now I've moved on from that. I appreciate change.

A building may be put up because it is needed, and it may be well designed, both useful and beautiful. But years later maybe it is not so needed, and the location is ideal for some other purpose. This is not to say that the old building was bad. It respects the building as a functional thing to remove it when it no longer serves its purpose. It says that the building mattered.

I think I was caught up in the idea that you destroy things only when they are useless and ugly.

Did you ever see a sand mandala? Also known as a sand painting. From Wikipedia:

The Sand Mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.

I heard about sand mandalas in college. I had trouble making sense of it, taking so much trouble to create something and then deliberately destroying it as soon as it is done.

But now I get it. Let things go. Appreciate how good something is. Go ahead and create something without taking on the obligation of owning it and keeping it. Remember it.

And know that eventually no one will even have a memory of it. It's the material world. All things must pass.

It's almost wrong to keep photographs of a sand mandala.

But I found that this set ( helped me understand how it feels to work on one. It must be satisfying to dismantle it, like a trouble lifted. I would know that I had made the mandala and that it was beautiful. Doing it is the payoff, not the dead inert thing you end up with when you've stopped changing it.

I wonder how many artists feel like this about their work but can't explain why. I've heard of musical artists who can't bear to listen to their completed recordings and only want to think ahead to the next one they will do.

You'd laugh at me saying all this if you could see the room full of old books and papers I have accumulated. I don't want to let them go.

I even put up an essay about old photos while I was writing drafts of this story. I didn't see the connection when I did it.

I changed when I spoke to Terri. It was the summer of change.

The gull illustrations are by an anonymous artist, possibly Marie Honore Myers, from the small book Each in His Own Tongue by William Herbert Carruth, published by Wise-Parslow, New York, 1925.

The marbled endpaper was found in a copy of Kosmos by Alexander von Humboldt printed 1847. Each sheet of marbled paper is unique. See

[The next Summer of '69 story is In the Year 2525.]

Next time: In the Year 2525.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


[This is the first Summer of '69 story.]

I should tell you about Terri.

At the end of high school, I decided I should probably get a summer job. Probably. That was the situation I was in. You'd think my parents would have told me to get a job to help cover my imminent college costs, but they didn't. I don't know why.

There was a certain degree of difficulty to it. We lived in a small town in Rockland County, and I had not learned to drive. My mom was home, but with my four younger siblings to deal with, I felt like she had enough to keep her busy. My first choice was to check the shops in town that I could walk to, for HELP WANTED signs or some other clue. I might even have to speak and bring up the subject with somebody, if worst came to worst, but maybe that would not be necessary.

My favorite shop in town was a used bookstore called Schoolmaster Books. It filled most of a nineteenth-century wood-frame house that was once, so they said, a schoolmaster's house.

From the porch you came into a large front room the width of the building, and there was a back room, and more rooms upstairs. It was hard to see the interior detail with all the bookshelves and store cases, but I know the front room had a chair rail with a wooden wainscot below it, and the back room had a great ceiling made of thin wooden boards in a beautiful dark wood color.

It wasn't totally books. They had some small old toys and games too, but while they attracted my attention they were not what I came for.

Most of the books they had didn't cost much, but just the same I didn't have much to spend, so I had to consider carefully and wait till I saw something really good. I picked up a handful of books that I still have.

Look at this. The Rand, McNally Standard Atlas of the World., 1890 edition. Not everyone has one of these. It must have been my most expensive purchase, at a staggering (to me) price of $17 according to the pencilled notation on the flyleaf. The pages are about twice as large as my scanner, so I went outside and took a photograph of it so you can see it.

I could go on, but this is not what I wanted to tell you about.

Another reason I liked going Schoolmaster Books was the high school girl who worked there. I guessed that she was my age. I didn't dare actually talk to her and ask. Remember, all boys school. It may have helped me concentrate my way into good grades and Columbia College, but it did not help me concentrate when confronted with one of them.

I have set the scene. Now picture my younger self as I went in, just kind of casually looking toward the sales counter, Joe Cool, you know, maybe the girl is there, maybe not. The other possibility was that the owner, a nice grey haired woman, was at the counter.

But that just meant the girl was lurking inside the shop to startle me at any turn. She might be dusting or moving things around or whatever they needed done. I don't mean she was actually lurking for that purpose. But she might as well have been. Wow what excitement this was. I mean it. It really was. It didn't take much.

Then, when I did see her, I'd just kind of glance toward her, maybe looking at her shoes or something, and then ignore her. You might think I should have smiled at her and said hello. But if I did that, it might be rude or make her uncomfortable. Better to just barely acknowledge her presence and let her go about her business unmolested. That would be kinder. I wanted to be a fine person to be with.

This was my way of thinking at the time.

One Saturday around May, I was in there and found an old Red Book Street Guide to New York (with map) or something like that, for a couple of dollars. As I was paying the owner, she told me she was looking for someone to work there that summer. Just like that. All she knew about me was that I liked picking through books and bought one once in a while.

I took my life in my hands and spoke to her. I mean, after all, I was a kid. What did I say to shopkeepers besides "I'll take this" and then "thanks" for the change, if I even said that? If I said that much, it was an improvement over silently putting a thing on the counter and offering money and silently taking it and the change away. Was I a weird kid? Some days I think I was, and then I see kids acting the same way now when I'm in shops, and they don't seem weird. They're just kids.

So. I spoke to the owner. I told her that in fact I worked in a bookstore at school and that I had been wondering about what I would do for the summer.

I thought to myself that I would now be in a position to bring her one of those "references" or "recommendations" that I had heard about. My hard work at school would now pay off, because I would be able to get someone to write that I did a good job.

However the owner, who told me her name was Sue, and I could call her Sue, did not ask for a reference. She was willing to take me on just like that, on my word that I would show up starting in June. She called "Terri" to get the girl to come down and watch the counter. That was her name! Now I knew a secret about her!

I went back to the little office room with Sue and filled in my name and address and phone number and social security number and maybe something else. Sue checked when I would be out of school and able to work weekdays, and she asked whether I could do some weekends just before school ended. Apparently the shop was busier in the summer and especially on weekends. I had not noticed.

Obviously, on my way out, I could have said something to Terri. If I had said, "hey, I'm going to work here this summer", it would not have been out of line, would it? That would have been all right.

I didn't though. But I was bold enough to look at her face and nod my head toward her. She almost smiled. Then I was out the door.

As I walked home I realized I would need to deal with Terri in some way. Or would I? An awful thought came. Maybe Terri was taking another job! Maybe I was her replacement!

That still wouldn't be so bad. I liked books, and I liked the store, and Sue seemed nice, so I was going to be in pretty good shape anyway. That's what I told myself. But I was full of uncertainty.

This could have been straightened out very quickly if I had risked saying something to Terri as I left. I thought about how it could have played out.

What a bitter disappointment it would have been if she had said, "oh, good, I was worried what Sue would do without me", and I would have had to act calm. Imagine if I said, "oh you're leaving? too bad". Where would I go from there?

On the other hand, what if she had said, "oh, good, I'd like to work with you" or something. That would almost be worse! What would I say? "Great, I'm looking forward to it"? What do you mean, that would have been OK?

Once in a while I hear someone remark that it would be great to be a teenager again. NO. No it wouldn't. In the name of all that is holy, no. I never want that to happen. I'm glad it is impossible. If you're a mad scientist, invent something else.

By the time I got home I realized what an impossible situation I had got myself into. Sue must have told Terri that I was going to work there. That meant Terri would know the next time she saw me, and I figured she would say something. Girls are good at talking. I knew that. She'd say something about it. I had only put things off by slipping out the way I did.

I didn't go there the next Saturday. I never went every week. It's true, the books were all one of a kind, and you never knew what would turn up, but the inventory didn't refresh a lot in one week. So I had an excuse for not going back immediately. I could put off the reckoning.

Here is something I didn't know until later. Terri was expecting me the next Saturday. She thought I would come by even though it was only one week later. She even brought lunch and ate it outside on the porch, instead of going down the street for something like she usually did, just so she would be there. I never guessed it. I don't mean I thought of it and dismissed it as ridiculous. I mean the idea that this would happen never even occurred to me.

I never found out whether the two of them had spoken ahead of time about offering the job to me.

Of course I could not stay away forever. I needed to see what new old stuff might have come in. And I had to schedule those weekend hours in June with Sue. That was why I had to go back there eventually.

[The next Summer of '69 story is Mandala.]

Next time: Mandala.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Last week's teaser originally said this week's item would be called Doune. I was going to do a piece about our visit a few years ago to Doune Castle in Scotland, the principal location for one of our family's favorite films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but then I realized that a lot of people have already made photo pages about going there. I like to create web pages with something you can't get anywhere else. Maybe I'll still do it sometime if I can come up with a new angle on it.

I have also begun writing a new story series that is something like a prequel to the College Stories. I have written out drafts of the first two parts, and I have thought about how to explain the end, but I feel like I don't quite have it right yet. I may have hinted to you before that I spent a few weeks on Drop in order to set up the College Stories properly. I will go out on a limb and put the working title of the first part of the new story at the end here.

So it's not as if I've done nothing, but it is almost as if, because once again I came all the way to the weekend with nothing in the old blogger bank.


People take pictures of each other
just to prove that they really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
so the moment should last them for ever
of the time when they mattered to someone.

— Ray Davies, "People Take Pictures of Each Other", 1968.

I've been looking at an album of the oldest photographs I have of my childhood. The selection of moments preserved there is so different from the ones preserved in my memory. The photos are familiar and yet strange. And images I wish I had preserved are not there.

Family photographs are full of special events. We can see how we looked on vacation trips, on birthdays, on graduations. Of those events, only random moments were captured, not always the ones we remember. But of daily life, orders of magnitude fewer moments. I don't have a picture of my childhood bedroom. I don't have a picture of the bathroom. I don't have a picture of the corner where I got on the school bus every morning for eight years.

Some of my childhood friends are only memories, missing in all of the photographs. My parents never even met some of my school friends, and I never took a camera to school. People and things that were important to me once are just not there in the album.

So the album feels a little strange. It's like someone snapped images of my life but didn't understand which scenes I would want to see again later. Actually that's exactly what happened.

Of course I realize why. If you see something every day, you don't need a photograph of it. And then it's gone, or more often you're gone, gone from that place or that routine, maybe happy to be gone. Then some time later it occurs to you that something once so familiar has been taken from you, and it cannot come back.

Picture yourself when you're getting old.
You sit by the fireside a-pondering a
picture book: pictures of your mama,
taken by your papa, a long time ago,
picture book: of people with each other,
to prove they loved each other, a long time ago.

— Ray Davies, "Picture Book", 1968.

And what is there? The album is full of mysteries. Why do I have a photograph of this?

Some of the photos are bizarre. Here's my dad, smiling, in his thirties, holding a pigeon. I showed him this one last year and asked what was going on. He had no idea. No, he certainly did not keep pigeons, and he was sure none of the neighbors did. He could not think of any explanation at all. It's a great picture of him though. He's looking at my mom taking the photo.

Equally puzzling is this one. That's me, three years old. It's from a group of five photos taken on my birthday. This is what I have. It's ripped in half. Why? Whose arm is that? My mom wrote on the back of one photo, "Joe's b-day, age 3". Thanks for that much, mom. But oh, if only you'd left a note on the back of this one to say what offense this child or its family committed, that all but an arm needed to be crudely ripped from the pages of history.

This next one is me and my mom at the Pocono Game Farm, the same year. I like her hat. Like most kids I hated animals slobbering on me, so game farms were a trial, but it looks like I wanted to feel the wool of this black sheep.

Here's a silly memory. At some point in my childhood I got new pants that annoyed me because I could not get them on or off with my shoes on. The pants I have here? Not those pants. I guess very loose-fitting pants went out of fashion when I was little. I can no longer think of a good reason to put on my shoes before my pants. What strange little habits I had.

Now, this next one is the prize. I've just been getting you ready.

My mom wrote this on the back:
taken in Superama / Super Market / Paramus N J / Oct 1955. The photo print does not match any of the others I have, and it's been cut with scissors on the sides. A bit mysterious.

You'll notice that I've got a child-size shopping cart, and it has artfully arranged merchandise in it. I've enlarged this one (click on it) so you can get a look at the period products.

Silvercup Bread! See the silver cup logo on the end there? There's also a miniature loaf in the cart with the same wrapper. I showed this to Helen and she remembers small loaves being available but not why. The thing between them with "19" on it may also be a loaf of bread.

Under the big loaf is a box of Burry's cookies. "Heavens to Betsy, Burry's are good". The tartan and the apparent "LO" makes me think Lorna Doone, but that was a Nabisco brand, so I wonder what name Burry's used. See how the package was made? I'm pretty sure it's a cardboard box with a wax paper wrapper glued over it. Printing directly onto boxes came later.

Near my hand is the book Tom and Jerry in Tom's Happy Birthday. Tom and Jerry were the violent cat and mouse team from M G M that inspired the insanely violent Itchy and Scratchy on The Simpsons. I guess Tom was the cat. Amazon will hook you up with dealers who have a paperback of this book.

The strangest thing here, to me, is the box of Mallomars under the small Silvercup loaf. I do not remember ever eating Mallomars. I have had a lifelong dislike of marshmallow. Don't ask me why. It tastes funny, OK? Let it go. It's not a major food group. My dad was a Brooklyn kid. Did he like us to buy Mallomars when they were in season?

Or was the cart a prop, and the photograph a promotional thing for a new store? It's not a Polaroid though, and it seems expensively elaborate to mail parents photos of their kids. But maybe that's what they did.

I remember us always shopping at the A & P in town. My mom's dad had been an A & P store manager in Pleasantville NY. She probably had her brand loyalty set in childhood.

One more. Three years later. I'm home in the living room.

My reading matter there is the Sunday News comic section. Some comics got a full page! I'm going to take a real leap and guess that the one on the left-hand page is "Little Orphan Annie" with the smaller panels of the one-line "Maw Green" strip at the bottom.

The toys on the floor belong to my sister. The thing in the middle of the table by the window is a china planter in the form of a donkey pulling a wagon. Now there is something I would never remember without this picture. But it comes back to me now like I can almost feel its smooth surfaces and smell the wet dirt in the planter. Memory is a weird thing.

This is a great photo. Nothing special is happening, and we get to see some of the room in its normal condition. This was everyday life.

Hee hee hee. Those socks are crazy. I don't remember them at all.

Next time: Schoolmaster.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Outdoor Art in South Orange

We've got art all over the place in South Orange. You can't get away from it. Last weekend I went out to take photos of a few pieces, and I've chosen my favorite five.

Visitors should notice that two of these works are on private property. Please view them only from the sidewalk.


Bottle Piece. Artist unknown, 2009. Installation of cut plastic bottles. Private property, Grove Street near South Orange Avenue. Possibly still in progress.

I first saw the piece in June, in the green grass and the shade of the trees. I think it might look even better now with more sunlight and autumn leaves on the ground. I look forward to viewing it after a snowfall and in the bright green of springtime.


Leaning Tower of South Orange. Architect unknown, circa 1915. Stone rubble structure with modern metal door. Cameron Field, Mead Street near the Rahway River.

Like the famous tower in Pisa, this one was not originally meant to be leaning but has been maintained in its fortuitous state. The interior is not open to visitors. From the roof there would be a fine view of the Rahway River.

Although the building was meant for some humdrum official purpose, the needless castellated roof shows a sense of humor on the part of the original builders, and the mood is carried on by the vertical paint boundary on the right side of the doorknob hardware.


Tau. Tony Smith, designed 1962 and constructed 2006. Steel construction. Cameron Field, Ridgewood Road at Mead Street.

This is quite a controversial piece because not everyone in town considers it good value for money. Before its public dedication it was defaced by graffiti (now painted over) including the words "POOP" and "$250,000". That was terribly wrong. The cost was in fact approximately $355,000 (Star Ledger, November 21, 2008). Of this at least $175,000 was township money, but I have not been able to find a breakdown of costs and funding sources anywhere online including the official site The irony of it is that the piece is considered a gift to the township, where the artist once lived. An earlier copy of the same piece is at Hunter College in Manhattan, and a third copy may be allowed eventually as per the artist's wishes.

I did not notice in real life what my photograph shows: that from this angle, the piece forms three two-dimensional parallelograms. That's pretty cool, but it does not remain true from other angles.

PS: Christmas is coming, and if you're thinking of getting me something, that's kind of you, but please don't choose a gift that will cost me $355,000.


South Orange.
Michael Maier, circa 2002. Mixed materials. South Orange Middle School, Ridgewood Road.

Michael Maier, a commercial art director who lives in town, designed and fabricated a faux weathervane for the middle school featuring a large S and an arrow pointing south, an orange with leaves, and the word "Middle". As I have previously noted elsewhere, the leaves look to me like pumpkin leaves. But I will not complain. The artist personally climbed a ladder and refreshed the paint on the work in 2009, so he's all right with me.

As I recall, this work first appeared during the time my daughter attended the "pink prison" seen in the background. That's how I am guessing the date.


Gita's Garden. Artist unknown, in progress since circa 2004. Installation of sculptures, various materials. Private property, Wyoming Avenue north of South Orange Avenue.

I've driven past this large installation over the past few years, but I could give it no more than a passing glance from the car. It deserves much more time. I'm glad I finally looked at it on foot. It could be that I have a weakness for large, elaborately detailed things.

The central piece, seen above, provides the name and dedication. The two views below show most (but not all) of the installation, looking south and north along the public sidewalk.

I chose a few details, seen below. One of the figures along the sidewalk is a pelican that was in an appropriate pool of water following recent rain. Three bears are among the figures along the north side of the drive. Whether the individual pieces were found or made specifically for the installation is not known.

My earliest memory of the installation was of the large cat seen below, and it may have been the first figure on the property. It has been moved around as the piece has developed and grown in size. A few years ago the cat was near the north side and painted black like a panther. In its current bronze color it is close to the south boundary, and has been augmented with a bird perched on its head.


Now I bet you wish you lived here, right? You could soak up the creative energy and then go do great things, no matter what it is you do.

Next time: Superama.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beats Me

Did you ever wish you could make that perfect comment? More precisely, did you get into a situation where later on you thought of something you should have said that would have been killer if you could have said it when it mattered? This is why people on sitcoms sound so smart. Their writers can take a little time and think about it. The rest of us can't do that.


I remember one good comment I did have in time.

When I was a supervisor in the library, they had a speaker come in to give an all-day thing to a group of us middle manager types, so we could learn about our strengths and weaknesses and do some team building and become better people. One thing I'll tell you: stay with the plane. If you don't know what that means, just wait till you go to one of these things.

Among other activities we took a written test called the Multiphasic Personality Inventory. I love the name. Right? I want to find something I'm working on that I can call multiphasic. People will respect that. "Joe? He's busy developing the multiphasic email spam blocker." "Wow."

It was that test that told me I should never ever take a job where I have to talk to human beings.

Anyway, we were looking at our results, and my friend Seth said, "It says here I'm predictable."

And immediately I told him, "I knew you'd say that."

That was a hell of a long time ago.


Another time I couldn't think of a joke. A bunch of us were sitting around in a backyard having a couple of beers, and anyone who could think of a joke told it. A few of us came up empty. Well, I thought of the one about the diving tramp, but it's really long and maybe some of them had heard it. I like that one, but I wanted to think of something more obscure that fitted my sense of humor. I have standards.

On my way home, I invented an original joke.

There were these two sheep farmers walking through a field. It was a farmer and his neighbor farmer.

Now this area had been in sheep farming for a long time, and the farms were separated by ancient stone walls and old wooden fences. If they fell into disrepair, the sheep could wander off their own farm and into neighboring properties.

The custom had developed that if you found a neighbor's sheep, you would bring it back where it belonged. The sheep were all marked on the ear, so you would know who they belonged to.

The farmer complained to his neighbor. "These farmers just don't take care like I do. They don't do repairs and they do careless things. The other day I found a place where a fool had piled up hay bales next to a stone wall, and of course a few of his sheep had walked up the bales and over the wall into my land. And I had to go bring them back. I spend too much time bringing sheep back where they belong."

"I've had enough. From now on, I'm going to just keep the sheep. If they want their sheep back, they can come get them, and I'll charge them for the feed."

"Now I know you take care. If one of your sheep manages to get out, I'll bring it back. I hardly ever see one of yours. That's how it should be. But the rest of these farmers, forget it."

As they walked along they came over a rise, and there they found a sheep nibbling grass.

"Now look at that," the farmer said. "I know I just put all my sheep in the barn. This one's not mine. This is it. I am taking this sheep."

"But wait," he said. "I guess there's a chance it's yours. I don't have my glasses with me. Would you take a look at its ear and..."

Oh no. Look away. Look away, before it's too late.

"...stop me if you herd this one."

I warned you. Maybe it's a good thing that I couldn't think of this while I was there.


This next one's a really lame comment, but I had a second chance with it, and you don't get that too often. And I want to demonstrate what can happen.

About a month ago, I was on my way to work, walking to the railway station. As you know I expect Runner Girl to pass me along the way, going the same direction as me.

On that day, unexpectedly, I saw her running toward me. That meant she was doing her run about a half hour later than normal. And this woman is like clockwork. She's the only runner I see at the same time every day. I nodded at her, and she said "hi" and kept going. Then I thought I should have had a comment on this unusual meeting.

Actually I thought of saying, "You're running late", but that pun is too bad even for me, so I decided I should just say "You're late". That would be enough. She was at least a block away by this time, so, so much for that thought.

But wait. Just this past Monday it happened again! I will write the next paragraphs day by day.

Monday: Runner Girl was running toward me, and I got myself ready, and after she smiled and waved, she passed me, and I turned and said, "You're late". No reaction. All I could see was her back as she moved away.

Tuesday: Day off. When I have a weekday off I do my usual walk and run, but I do it about an hour later. This overlaps into the time Runner Girl is out, so occasionally I see her. If she realizes that I usually go out earlier, and she saw me today, then she could say to me, "You're late". The very next day. How perfect is that? Would she think of it? Probably she would. However, I didn't see her.

Wednesday: I didn't see her today either. I was walking to the station at the normal time. Strange. Oh no. Maybe I have ruined it with that careless remark. Has she changed her route?

Thursday: Nothing, again.
A moment of sadness. Has she moved away?

Friday: And... nothing. The new normal? Damn cold this morning though. I didn't run myself. I don't know whether she runs in the winter at all. I wasn't paying attention before I wrote Runner Girl. But I have a bad feeling. "You're late"... why did I need to say that?

See, kids? Be careful with those comments.


One more.

This one's about one of those computer programs that can play chess. There's a programmer who has a friend who's a chess grand master, so they're working on one of these programs together. The programmer has put in all the rules, and hundreds of gambits or whatever they call them, and even the course of a thousand championship games with the good moves noted.

The chess grand master keeps playing against the computer. He wins sometimes, and says that it shows how the human brain is more adaptable. But it makes the programmer add more data. As time goes on, the grand master loses more and more, and eventually he gets discouraged.

"I don't want to work on the project any more", says the grand master.

"But why?", says the programmer.

"It beats me", says the grand master.

Yeah. Sorry, that's about it.

Next time: Outdoor Art in South Orange.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


This was a tough week. I started writing something called "Check-up", but it did not work out, and then I was sick for a few days, and then Saturday came round, and what have I got? Nothing. But lucky for you I thought of something that caught my interest a few months ago, and I took a walk Saturday and shot some photos, and here you go.

Also: while I was home sick I had that salad with dill weed for lunch both days, and I have added a photograph of it to Dill Weed, so go back and look at it. It will make you hungry.


One morning when I was walking the six-mile loop that takes me through South Mountain Reservation, I came back downhill on a different street, and saw something strange. There was some kind of monument down at the end of a dead-end street.

There was a concrete barrier fence, protecting drivers and pedestrians from going any farther, and a bronze plaque on a concrete pylon. WTF? I had to detour to see what it was.

What event or person might the plaque commemorate? And why here? What special thing could lay at the end of this backwater street?

A reservoir.

As a resident of South Orange Village, I know that my water is supplied by the East Orange Water Commission, so I am not totally surprised to see the Water Department of the City of East Orange making its presence known here.

I took a look over the barrier. If your idea of a reservoir is a large lake, this will disappoint you. It's a covered reservoir.

There is quite a drop, but all you can see below, through the trees, is a level field of grass. Here's a photo that doesn't show you much. The field of grass is fenced in and protected by signs that say: NO / TRESPASSING / WATER SUPPLY / AREA / EAST ORANGE WATER COMMISSION.

I can tell when I am not welcome. But later on, after walking around, I found myself in a place where I could get a good picture of the reservoir roof. I'll explain where I was shortly. If you go there, you'll find the fence is incomplete, but it's pretty clear that they don't want people walking around on the roof, so I'll ask you to follow my example and keep off it.

On their web site, the East Orange Water Commission describe how this reservoir fits into the water supply system:

To supply the residents of East Orange and South Orange, the Commission derives its water supply from four well fields in the 2300+ acre East Orange Water Reserve. The water is obtained from eighteen (18) artesian wells supplied by the great Passaic Aquifer, created during the last Ice Age. The water is forced from the wells through conduits to the East Orange Pumping Station, where it is minimally treated and then pumped to an underground reservoir in Maplewood. From this reservoir, it flows via gravity into the distribution system and to the consumer’s house tap at which point it first sees the light of day.

The fact that the water is never exposed to daylight until it reaches the consumers' premises accounts for its purity, coolness, and general excellent quality.

The water reserve they mention is along the Passaic River, not far from the Mall at Short Hills. The water supply system dates back to 1903, so the work commemorated by the monument of 1939 must be for an enlargement of an older reservoir.

And I found two older related structures.

The first one is a block away, at a higher elevation, on the far side of South Orange Avenue. From the reservoir all you have to do is go maybe 150 feet northeast through a wooded lot and then across the avenue.

Notice the level field right behind this building, which must be another covered reservoir .

"Village of South Orange, 1912". Maybe water for South Orange is pumped here for local distribution. This reservoir is about 100 feet higher, which would help reach the houses on the hill in South Orange. From here, also, a run of about 500 feet west and north, up the hill, brings you to a huge water tank. I took a photo of it back in 2002.

Leaping Lizards! The Martians have landed! This thing was required to supply water by gravity to the houses in Newstead, the neighborhood on the top of the mountain. It's probably from the 1950s, judging by the style of the fake ranch house in front of it with the overly large garage. I love the lightning rods (or antennae to signal forces in space when the time is right).

The oldest building related to the reservoir is on its downhill side, right out on Wyoming Avenue.

The mound of earth behind it is the same reservoir as the one behind the concrete monument. The steps look pretty inviting for a walk on the wooded hillside, and there's no fence until you get farther up, but there are ancient signs forbidding trespassing. You can see them on the trees left and right of the building.

"East Orange Water Works" and "Erected A D 1904". (It became the Commission in 1909.) This is a pleasing little building. I like the yellow brick, and the cut stone corners, and the tiled roof. Maybe those big windows mean that at one time you were allowed to see the machinery inside, back when cities were proud of their public works, and not afraid of vandals.

You must be confused by now, so here is the lay of the land, courtesy GIS mapping from the Township of Maplewood's web site. I've circled the three structures and named them 1939, 1912, and 1904 respectively. The reservoir is the L shaped open space between 1939 and 1904, marked with a 107, for its address, 107 Wyoming Avenue. The South Orange reservoir is just above the 1912 building, and from there if you look left and up, you can see the big tank at the top edge of the image.

Look along the southwest edge of the reservoir. See Cedar Lane? If you're there on the ground you could easily overlook it. It's an ancient road. The portion from South Orange Avenue to Wyoming Avenue has not been open to traffic in a very long time, but the township map still shows it as a public right of way.

After I took photos of the 1912 building, I went into South Mountain Reservation tried to follow Cedar Lane down the hill. I went down next to "The Top" (marked with all those 616s) and found the right of way running between the fence of the reservoir property and the backyard fences of houses on Woodhill Drive. The smaller circle about halfway down Cedar Lane, near my 1939 circle, is where I took the photo of the top of the reservoir. I was going to continue down from there, but the way was so overgrown that I turned back and used Woodhill Drive to go down.

The other small circle, near 1904, is where I took a photo of Cedar Lane looking up from Wyoming Avenue.

It looks like this is the end of Cedar Lane, doesn't it? It's the end of the part you can drive on. But you can see the rest of it, right in the center of the photograph, covered with leaves, between the driveways to those two houses. It's paved with stone blocks for a short distance. I know that I walked up there about ten years ago and had no trouble reaching South Orange Avenue. So I think its condition has deteriorated in that time.

Here is a street map of the Oranges from 1889 and a Hagstrom map of Essex County, both showing Cedar Lane running all the way through.

One of the books I read for the Stone House essays indicated that Cedar Lane is the original path of the road over the mountain, replaced more than 200 years ago by the straight lines of South Orange Avenue. The 1889 map shows accurately that the alignments diverge at the curve. In the field, the old right of way can still be made out , running along the south side of modern South Orange Avenue, but going downhill a little more steeply. It turns right at the "The Top" property and runs almost straight from there.

The Hagstrom map was drawn in the 1930s. It shows Harding Drive South running through to Cedar Lane, which may have been planned before the reservoir expansion commemorated in the monument of 1939, but whether was ever graded is unknown. At the date of the map I scanned, 1953, I doubt the upper part of Cedar Lane was still open to traffic.

Besides that, though, an old couple who used to live next to us told me once that Cedar Lane was not passable from Wyoming Avenue to Ridgewood Road either until the 1960s, with mounds of earth blocking the way. The houses along Cedar Lane and the parts of Lenox Terrace and Lenox Place in Maplewood all appear to me to date from the 1960s. But there are a few sections of old stone walls on the south side where it borders Washington Park, as if the builders there had allowed for Cedar Lane's existence. Hagstrom thoughtfully provides us with house numbers from 2 to 172 for West Cedar Lane, although there was not a single address on it in 1953.

See? I take a little walk around the neighborhood, and look what weird stuff turns up.

I'll tell you what I'm going to do now.

I'm going to go have a glass of water. The old aqua pura. Crystal clear liquid ice. Dihydrogen monoxide that has not seen the light of day till it drips from my tap. Mmmm.

All photographs were taken October 31, 2009, except the one of the big tank, which is a 35mm film photo from 2002. The Cedar Lane maps are from Rutgers University's New Jersey Historical Maps (1889) and my collection (1953).

Next time: Beats me.
(That's not a title, it's a comment. It's not an essay called Beats me. But that would be an interesting title. Hm.)